Zhang Huifang 张慧芳

A web site is a full time job! I just fixed the links for all the photos on this one today.

(originally published on: May 7, 2011)

Today I am presenting a 2 1/2 hour concert featuring several exciting female Beijing Opera stars performing arias. The concert concludes with Li Shengsu, the foremost performer of the genre.

This file is in .AVI format, of 922MB in size, and can be played using VLC.

I’m really excited about this one, but it took quite a long time for me to post this because I needed help in identifying the performers. The following notes were kindly prepared by Fern.

All kinds of flowers are fragrant

Li Guojing Li Guojing (李国静) – On the Dock (海港)
Shanghai Beijing Opera Theater, first class dan, mainly Mei school, also Shang school


Lü Huimin

Lü Huimin (吕慧敏) – Selling Water (卖水), Peach Blossom Village (桃花村)
China National Peking Opera Company 2nd Troupe, first class huadan, Xun school

Zhang Yanling

Zhang Yanling (张艳玲) – Princess of Shuangyang (双阳公主), Han Ming Fei (汉明妃)
Tianjin Beijing Opera Theater, first class qingyi and daomadan, Shang school


Liu Guijuan

Liu Guijuan (刘桂娟) – Chen Sanliang (陈三两), The Great Enthronement (大登殿)
Tianjin Youth Beijing Opera Troupe, first class qingyi, Cheng school


Zhang Huifang

Zhang Huifang (张慧芳) – 2 excerpts from Xie Yaohuan (谢瑶环)
Hubei Beijing Opera Theater, first class qingyi, huashan, Zhang school


Zhang Ping

Zhang Ping (张萍) – Qiu Jin (秋瑾), Hong Yun Gang (modern opera) (红云岗)
Beijing Military Region Comrades-in-Arms Cultural Troupe, first class dan, Zhang


Zhao Xiujun

Zhao Xiujun (赵秀君) – Number One Scholar as Matchmaker (状元媒), 2 excerpts from Romance of the West Chamber (西厢记)
Tianjin Youth Beijing Opera Troupe, first class qingyi, Zhang school


Liu Wei

Liu Wei (刘薇) – Romance of Chunfa and Qiulian (春秋配), Su San Sent Out Under Guard
Head of Wuhan Beijing Opera Theater, first class dan, Huang school (founded by
Huang Guiqiu)


Deng Min

Deng Min (邓敏) – Turandot (图兰朵), Female Generals of the Yang Family (杨门女将)
China National Peking Opera Company 2nd Troupe, first class dan, Mei school


Li Haiyan

Li Haiyan (李海燕) – Zhu Yingtai Resists Marriage (英台抗婚), The Unicorn Purse (锁麟囊)
Head of China National Peking Opera Company 2nd Troupe, first class qingyi,
Cheng school


Li Jie

Li Jie (李洁) – Tale of the White Snake (白蛇传)
Jiangsu Beijing Opera Theater, first class dan, Mei school


Chi Xiaoqiu

Chi Xiaoqiu (迟小秋) – The Unicorn Purse (锁麟囊), Su San Sent Out Under Guard (苏三起解),
The Unicorn Purse again
Beijing Peking Opera Theater, head of Beijing Peking Opera Theater Youth Troupe,
first class qingyi, Cheng school


Li Shengsu

Li Shengsu (李胜素) – The Unofficial Biography of Taizhen (太真外传), Mu Guiying Takes
Command (穆桂英挂帅), Remorse at Death (生死恨)
Head of China National Peking Opera Company 1st Troupe, first class qingyi,
huashan, Mei school

I hope I haven’t skipped anyone.


Thank you very much, Fern! Now for my own observations

It is apparent that out of make-up, some of these performers clearly struggle hard to hit their notes. Beijing Opera is not easy to sing.

I admit I am more than partial to female singers. Picking a favourite among these performances is like asking a 7 year old what is the best chocolate in a candy store!

I will say that although she was possibly the least photogenic, and did not gesture much, I was most impressed with the POWERFUL voice of Li Haiyan. By the screen shots above you can see the same microphone was used for all the performers and they were all standing at the same distance from it. However Li Haiyan’s voice is the only section in the concert where the microphone buzzes for ten minutes: her voice is too loud! She is a sort of hybrid, a bit of coloratura soprano with a deep voice that carries far, along with great Beijing Opera throat control. This made her a stand out, in my opinion. (Since this was originally posted 4 years ago, I learned Li Haiyan is a member of the first National Troupe, most often partnering with Li Shengsu and Yu Kuizi —  Haiyan is a truly superb artist who has starred in many operas).

Deng Min was the most interesting to look at, obviously a very skilled actress. She much be superb in make-up and costume.

Best dressed was Liu Wei.

Zhao Xiujun is a ringer for Julia Pine, former guitarist of Ottawa punk band Last Prayer. Hi, Julia!

Li Shengsu is not allowed to leave after two tunes, and is chased back on stage to do one more number than the other performers.

The lighting is not optimal in this concert. Nor is the color in the video I think, I played with the video hue and saturation in VLC to get a picture I liked.

The video can be downloaded here.

Enjoy the “Flowers Fragrant” and see you next time !

(update note: here is the original comment for this post)

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks a lot for this concert!I also don’t know much about Li Haiyan, but she’s assigned to the same position (just in 2nd Troupe)as Li Shengsu, I bet the National Peking Opera Company is careful in picking its leaders.I think you hit the nail on its head with the words “most interesting” about Deng Min – previously she learned wusheng and knows two plays with massive splits and leg-over-the-head ligament hurting moves, too bad I never seen her doing those!
    And now she comes up with Turandot. Truly interesting. :)Comment by Fern — May 8, 2011 @ 12:00 am |Edit This



Here is the list of performers of the second concert on February 11th. Surprisingly, there was only a single laodan I didn’t know.

Zhang Kai
Zhu Hong
Mu Yu
Zheng Xiao
Li Xiaopei (This time she didn’t wear the Judge Bao blouse, you remember that right? She was wearing a pretty dress.)
Zhang Yun
Tan Zhengyan
Wang Yi
Qiu Jirong (May Qiu Shengrong throw down a lightning bolt at me from heaven, but I liked Fang Xu better.)
Du Zhe (He was supposed to sing the famous Wildboar Forest aria, but he performed Shang Tiantai instead. I think he was very good, but maybe I’m just biased.)
Jiang Yishan (Beijing audience loves her, finally she sang three excerpts.)
Zhang Jianfeng
Shen Wenli 沈文莉 (She’s the laodan I didn’t know.)
Yang Shaopeng
Bao Fei
Zhang Huifang
Du Zhenjie (Now this was a strange story. You know how good voice he has,he’s singing in Yang-style and that fits him well. Now for some reason he sang three arias in Ma style, he even announced it, with less success. What a pity.)
Yan Guixiang
Tan Xiaozeng
Li Haotian (Li Shaochun’s son was a special ad-hoc guest, and now it became obvious why Du Zhe’s Wildboar Forest was cancelled…)
Chi Xiaoqiu (I think she was just like on videos.)

The concert photo I made isn’t too splendid, only these few performers left for the curtain call, and Li Xiaopei changed dress: she’s the one in blue training clothes with high heels.

Jiang Yishan was accepted as disciple by Xue Yaping in 2000, thus entered Zhang school. In 2008, she was also accepted by Mei Baojiu, thus she entered Mei school. So what’s her status, hell knows. Btw., you and me are not the only ones baffled. From my part, I think nowadays she sounds like Mei school, but she can sing Zhang school too. She’s a pretty cheerful personality, has many fans, as host she was funny and lively.

Bao Fei never was my favorite as performer (as a private person he’s funny, kind, open-hearted, I like him), in the concert he was singing from Silang Visits his Mother, for me, it was a mild disappointment.

Mu Yu I like from the start, he has a good voice, his tone of voice also fits Ma school, and he’s really taking it seriously. Loyal to his teacher, striving hard, he surely won’t mess up Zhang Xuejin’s legacy. I’m not a great expert but even I can hear that year by year he gets better. I especially liked him in this concert.

On the 12th, I went to see the Bai Yun (White Cloud) Temple 白云观. I thought it will be like  the Fayuansi the day before, but no, here were crowds of people: visitors, incense sellers, policemen. There’s a huge underground parking lot. I saw four tourists, including myself. Almost everyone came to pray and burn incense in front of a daoist deity, there was a dozen of little shrines. It wasn’t allowed to make photos of the deities, I respected that, but now and then I couldn’t resist to zoom in a little.

in the temple

For a moment I was wondering whether I should buy one of those red ribbons you write names on, and tie it to the tree, but came to the conclusion that I don’t believe in such things so won’t spend any money on this. 😛 I made a photo that I really like, attached that (daoist monk in the window.) I also had a good shot of a Firo Extigui shor Box.

On the 13th, we went to the tumultuous temple fair at the Longtan Lake 龙潭庙会, there were many, many, many food stalls and game stalls where nobody can win the giant stuffed panda plush. I saw drum show, juggling show, ate a spicy Hui speciality, chunks of meat on a stick (it was unavoidable), but refused to eat the chunk of fat in between.

Bert loves fried squid, Fern does not

Conclusion: Bertrand loves fried squid, Fern does not.

Hello Chinese Opera fans,

Finally I decided to finish the fourth part of my trip report. The last few months were so hectic for me that I won’t even try to elaborate on that, and I won’t say sorry repeatedly for being so slow, it makes no sense.

Yesterday I found this article from last month in Beijing Daily, it’s about the Sicily performances – there’s a somewhat funny segment in the article I would like to translate (and here I do say sorry for my Chinhunglish):

After the opening performance in Catania, The Zhao Orphan, it’s was already very early in the morning, around 1 o’clock, when a girl from Hungary, Nora, rushed backstage, chasing after her idols, Li Hongtu and Zhu Qiang for a group photo.
Previously this year in July, Red Cliff was staged in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic, after seeing Red Cliff in Hungary, Nora immediately became a Li Hongtu and Zhu Qiang fan, and after hearing that they would later perform in Sicily, she hurriedly bought a plane ticket because she wanted to see all four performances.
As expected, the next day before Lü Bu and Diaochan, she arrived to the theater very early. The Head of the Beijing Jingju Theater, Li Enjie, has already sent an invitation to Nora, asking her to come to Beijing to see jingju.


This is the evening edition, it has the same text:

Well, I got an invitation (but no invitation letter), we will see it will work out or not.

True that, I arrived to the theater early each day, except the last one. I thought why should I wait there, I won’t meet anyone, so I arrived just in time for the performance, and after curtain call I left immediately. Sure enough that next day I got a message from Zhu Qiang: “I was waiting for you before the performance, but couldn’t see you coming.” That much about my brilliant intuitions. I really wanted to say good-bye, especially that this is one of the few Chinese phrases I can pronounce properly.

Program of the last night was a real classic tale: Legend of the White Snake. I don’t think that any recurring visitor here will ask: “What’s that all about?” 

Considering the set of performers available in Sicily, easy to guess that Bai Suzhen (White Snake) was played by Zhang Huifang, Xu Xian by Li Hongtu, Xiao Qing (Green Snake) by Li Hongyan, and Fahai (Boo!) by Huang Yanzhong.
Sadly too much time has passed since the performance, but I remember that the theater was full. Unexpectedly the play ended after the Broken Bridge scene, but it was long enough either way.

Shy Bai, shy Xu

What’s more romantic than sharing an umbrella?

Huang Baixue as the boatman – bravo!

I think this photo is pretty cute.

“Your wife is a snake demon, deal with it.”

During the performance, Li Hongtu made the audience giggle several times, his Xu Xian was naive and gullible. Sicily spectators considered his sniffing during the Broken Bridge scene a highlight, and laughed loudly.

The White Snake moves heaven and earth to get the magical lingzhi mushroom, in order to revive her beloved husband.

Even Crane Boy and Deer Boy (played by the super-handsome Zhou Enxu and Zhang Qingsong) can’t prevent White Snake from snatching the mushroom.

After Stealing the Magical Mushroom, there was an intermission. Suddenly I remembered the “second floor middle” hint, and using the zoom on my camera, luckily discovered Ye Shaolan up there. Certainly took a few photos right there, the one below is really cute, with Mr. Ye on the right (on the left in the background is Li Enjie, the other gentleman I don’t recognize):

A few minutes later he left, and I thought if this is a washroom break, the right moment has arrived. I proceeded to the corridor, and took my tactical position. And guess what, he really showed up! He was smiling at me when I approached him, and was a bit surprised when I handed him a pen and paper. I got the autograph I was longing for, and even took a photo, Bertrand already posted that.
No-one was there to take a joint photo, but I didn’t really mind, actually I didn’t want to ruin the photo with my unpolished grin. Then he said good bye, and my right angled bowing made him smile again. I can’t help, it was just natural instinct.

The performance continued with a fight again: Green Snake and White Snake flooded Fahai’s temple. The audience was fascinated by the spectacular spear-kicking act, as far as I noticed, no spears were dropped, though there was a tight catch.

The little monk in the background holds the copper bowl that later serves as snake catcher. Again, Boo! at Fahai. I don’t like this character, but I already said that.

I think the charming bear is Wang Xueqing.

The snake sisters flood the temple, Xu Xian has to run for his life. The upset Green Snake chases him to the Broken Bridge, but the White Snake, although badly hurt, is still in love with him, so she convinces her sister to spare Xu’s life.

Do you want to see all this? Then click the links below, I recorded this scene – but beware, it’s a totally amateur video with a huge Sicilian fan and spectators’ heads in the view. It’s better interesting than splendid, some kind of souvenir from Fern.

Broken Bridge Part 1
Broken Bridge Part 2

Happy end! Reunion at Broken Bridge! Never mind the later happenings.

I like this picture: you can see the musicians as well.

As I mentioned before, after the performance I left immediately, and hurried back to my little room. I’m sorry to say, but I can’t remember what happened later, next day I went sightseeing, meanwhile the troupe arrived to Cosenza and met a very cultured audience.

Next day, very early in the morning I successfully made my way to the airport, and had a smooth flight home – that’s all folks!

I still couldn’t find a good closing catchphrase… 


PS. OK, I found another evening edition from October:

Li Hongtu: In these years I visited many places around the world, I came across many of these kind of girls like Nora from Hungary. This year in July we staged Red Cliff in Germany, […] a German spectator found me backstage, incessantly saying: “I was moved by your voice.”

First column title says: “Foreigner fangirl chasing (the troupe to) Italy”…

Now I really want to know actually what kind of girl I am…

Hello Everybody,

Sorry for being so slow. I’ve returned back from Sicily and will now try to write a decent trip report. To make things easier, I’ll proceed in a chronological order of events.

As Bertrand mentioned here, on the 16th I took a plane and arrived to Catania to see four performances staged by the Beijing Jingju Theater (officially JingJu Theater Company of Beijing), which I will refer to as BJT from now on.

This European tour was arranged by Wu Promotion, the same as for the Red Cliff tour in May. Unfortunately, one week before my trip, the venue, dates and programs were changed, I had to cancel a Palermo hotel reservation and extend the Catania one — fortunately the little apartment where I hired a room was still free for the rest of the week.

On the rather worn flyer above the correct dates are displayed, however the order of the performances was different than mentioned. Instead of “Snake”, “Zhao”, highlights, “Lü Bu”, the actual order of performances was “Zhao”, “Lü Bu”, highlights, “Snake”. Not to mention the “detailed” description of the highlights performance on the flyer was sort of slketchy, i.e. “Crossroad, Flower, Tipsy, 18”. Just for your convenience, this really meant: “At the Crossroads”, “Heavenly Maiden Showering Flowers”, “The Drunken Concubine”, “Eighteen Arhats Fight the Monkey King”.

The website above lists the tour stops as Munich, Catania and Cosenza, but don’t take any information you see on sites run by Chinese administrators for granted. The schedule changes quickly! All of a sudden, a performance was arranged in Rome on the 26th, and yesterday the troupe held another one in Amelia… On the photo below you can see Zhang Qingsong, Zhou Enxu and a Vatican bishop, definitely the oddest jingju group photo I’ve ever seen:

Photo of Ma Ou (BTV)

So back to my arrival. After running in circles for half an hour on the Catania airport, I figured out where to buy a ticket for the bus that took me to the inner city. In another half an hour, I found my hotel, actually it was a three-room apartment run by a young married couple. It was very clean, they didn’t bother me in the slightest degree, and the city, the theater, sightseeing highlights all were in the range of a 10-15 minutes walk. Ciuri Ciuri is a cute (and cheap) place to stay if you’re visiting Catania, I recommend.

Look at the ceiling of my room, pretty adorable, isn’t it?

After grabbing a city map from the counter, I threw my gear on the bed and connected to the free WiFi to find out what’s happening. The first performance was on the 18th, so I had one and a half day to explore the city and set up a schedule. Actually that week was so hectic that I didn’t care much about food, I ate whatever was in my reach.

I made several sightseeing photos, but I doubt anyone would be interested in them, here is one of my favorites though, a vintage funeral car:

On the 18th I went to the box office in the intolerable heat and waited half an hour to purchase tickets, then the clerk informed me that all performances are free. I was shocked. I don’t really support free admittance, you all know that people do not appreciate anything that’s thrown into their face for free.

In the evening I headed to theater Bellini with great expectations and without the slightest idea what play will I see. A fair amount of people were waiting in front of the theater, and it seemed everything will be OK.

In the hall you could buy souvenirs, not too attractive shawls decorated with jingju characters, porcelain USB sticks with the BJT logo, stuff like that. There was a little exhibition of costumes too, the signs read “Costume of XY” in Italian, and the name of the given subject in Chinese…

The show was hosted by Francesca Ferro, who is a local celebrity I guess, she was pretty professional, also the intro was well-written and interesting (although I don’t speak Italian). She briefly introduced Beijing Opera, the different roles, the meaning of the main face paint colors, and the invisible jinghu player performed a few typical tunes. Finally two young performers were invited to the stage, don’t ask me who they were, a palace maid and a supporting xiaosheng. First both of them said “Good Evening Everyone!” in Chinese, then they did the same in Beijing Opera style, with the fitting gestures. Naturally, the audience had a great time, and they already knew what to expect in the next few hours.

When Francesca started to explain the storyline, I finally got to know that tonight’s program is The Orphan of the Zhao Family《赵氏孤儿》, starring Li Hongtu as the Zhao orphan, Zhu Qiang as Cheng Ying, Chen Junjie as Wei Jiang, Huang Yanzhong as the evil Tu Angu, Jiang Yishan as Princess Zhuangji, Ni Shengchun as Gongsun Chujiu, Wu Haoyi as the maid Bu Feng, Huang Baixue as Jin Linggong and so on.

The sequence of acts you can read here. In case you’re unfamiliar with Zhaoshi Guer, just a few Google searches will do, this story is very well documented in English.

For my great pleasure, the dog was the beagle:

The audience got in a cheerful mood as soon as the dog appeared, however they soon had to realize this funny-looking animal will trigger a series of misfortune events.

Needless to say, during the whole performance I tried to blink as little as possible, in order not to miss a second. Both the musicians and the actors were amplified correctly, all the dong-dong-qiang wasn’t too loud, you could hear the dialogues and arias properly.

What to say? I enjoyed every moment of this play. I tried to make a few photos and videos, but each time I was warned by some theater staff: “No photo! No photo!” However, I managed to steal a recording of the aria I was waiting for, I converted it to mp4, you can download it below.

京剧《赵氏孤儿》Zhaoshi Guer (The Orphan of the Zhao Family), Aria 在白虎大堂奉了命 – Zhu Qiang (朱强)

Despite the torture, Bu Feng doesn’t confess

My single shot of Jiang Yishan except the curtain call that worked out

Sadly there was an intermission, allowing spectators to go outside and never come back. It’s out of question they didn’t understand the story and therefore they left, the whole opera was fully subtitled in Italian. My guess is that the show wasn’t advertised enough. Without those who left in between, the theater was rather a sore sight. Moreover, the story was tragic, not featuring many splendid looking female characters, I definitely enjoyed the long and sad segments performed by the plainly clothed Zhu Qiang, but I’m afraid the rest of the audience wasn’t so enchanted.

Soon they start to laugh. I like this picture.

Zhao Wu is a skilled archer: he shots two wild geese with one arrow

My efforts to hide my feelings utterly failed during the picture book scene. Cheng Ying reveals the truth to the Zhao orphan, first telling the course of events as if it were just an old narrative tale. Later on when he says: “And that man wearing black clothes… that was me.”, I simply couldn’t hold back tears. The strip below contains my four best shots of this scene.

Li Hongtu’s horizontal fainting definitely gained the appreciation of the audience, there was a noticeable uproar when he fell with a big thump. Sicilians also were especially fond of the final scene, when Cheng Ying kicks Tu Angu’s dead body multiple times.

The evildoer is dead!

Curtain call

The performance was recorded by BTV, I hope at some point I’ll manage to get a copy. At the end I bought a program booklet and a nice picture album about the BJT, with many gorgeous photos and several spelling mistakes. The letters are golden, never mind the scan below.

With all my new belongings under my arm, I proceeded to the street and waited patiently to get some autographs. This time, I didn’t forget to take a pen with me.

Just like in regular life, men remove their make-up and change clothes much faster than women. The first victim I spotted was Chen Junjie — without shoulder pads, huge platform shoes and scary face paint he’s a tiny little man. First I wasn’t sure it was him, but I recognized his green T-shirt I saw before. He gave me an autograph with a slight smile, in the imaginary bubble above his head I could read “How did this gal figure out it’s me?”

Seeing I was loitering there, the general manager of Wu Promotion, Wu Jiatong, and another gentleman got talking with me, one of them seemed to remember me from Budapest. (I was told later they are father and son but I simply cannot decide who’s the son. :/)

In a minute Zhu Qiang showed up, and although I changed my haircut and his eyesight isn’t very splendid, he recognized me from several meters away and I got a really warm welcome. Naturally everyone got his camera, meanwhile Li Hongtu also appeared and willingly lined up for the group photo, a few other people also started to shoot videos and pictures, actually everything happened very quickly.

Next day I found the picture at Weibo that Bertrand posted before, it’s Wu Jiatong’s version. You know, actually Li Hongtu is smiling, the first photo below proves it. On the second one I desperately tried to seem smaller, thus creating the rather embarrassing effect you see…


I was so happy with the autographs that I got lost in the city in the dark on the way back home, but finally arrived to my hotel room safely.

The next morning I received a personal message from Zhu Qiang, informing me their media would like to make a short interview with me,would I agree?

Just for the sake of operabeijing.com, I agreed. Stay tuned!

-end of part1-

A really big opera. Big size, big history, big story, just the stage set isn’t big, a typical one table – two chairs – one city wall combination.

I feel a little guilty because it’s featuring a single female character, a poor village girl portrayed by a unique huadan actress, Liu Shuyun.
Zhang Ke, a true representative of Yang Baosen’s legacy plays the main protagonist, Lu Song, disciple of Tan Yuanshou is excelling in not one, but two roles, and Meng Guanglu, who doesn’t really need any introduction, portrays the antagonist for a change. Yes, he’s NOT Bao Zheng this time.

The complete opera is very long, spectators nowadays don’t like to sit more than 3 hours in one place, thus it wasn’t performed in full for a long time. The Youth Troupe of Tianjin took up the responsibility to breath new life into the play. This production, with a few minor changes, is a complete edition – kind of a revival for this drama.

Download a small news video about the production.
You can learn how to put on a fake beard.

Wu Zixu, one of Beijing Opera master Yang Baosen’s representative works, consists of the following stories:

(1)《战樊城》Zhan Fancheng (The Battle of Fancheng)
(2)《长亭会》Changting Hui (Meeting in the Long Pavilion)
(3)《文昭关》Wenzhaoguan (The Zhao Pass)
(4)《芦中人》Luzhongren (The Man in the Reeds)
(5)《浣纱河》Huan Sha He (Washing Silk at the River)
(6)《鱼藏剑》Yu Cang Jian (Sword Inside the Fish) (alternate spelling: 《鱼肠剑》”Fish-gut Sword”)
(7)《专诸别母》Zhuan Zhu Bie Mu (Zhuan Zhu Leaves His Mother)
(8)《刺王僚》Ci Wang Liao (Murdering Wang Liao)
(9)《打五将》Da Wu Jiang (Defeating Five Generals)


I wrote the following summary according to the separate scripts of the acts at scripts.xikao.com. Fortunately the story, though lengthy, isn’t too complicated. The parts that are omitted or altered in this production are in italics.

(1) During the Warring States period (475-221 BC), Wu She, minister of Chu State is daring enough to directly criticize the king, Ping Wang (Ji Yijiu). His “well wisher”, Fei Wuji isn’t hesitant to frame Wu She, as a result the king orders his execution.
Wu She has two sons residing in Fancheng, Wu Shang and Wu Yun (courtesy name Wu Zixu). Fei Wuji wants to get rid of them too, and forces Wu She to write a letter and ask them to come to the capital. Wu Shang is willing to go, but Wu Yun foresees that they would meet their death, and holds his brother back. Finally they come to an agreement: in order to show filial obedience, Wu Shang goes, but Wu Yun escapes, hoping that he can gather an army and return for revenge.
As suspected, both Wu She and Wu Shang get executed. King Ping sends out an order to arrest Wu Yun, and dispatches Wu Chenghei and his army to capture Wu. Wu Chenghei’s soldiers fail, Wu Yun gets through the city walls and flees to Wu state. (The last part of Zhan Fancheng is left out, namely the actual battle. The next scene after the announcement of King Ping’s order is set in Dong Gaogong’s domain. For the sake of completeness, I clipped this part from another staging with Yang Shaopeng, you can download that too below.)

(2) On the way, Wu Yun meets an old friend, Shen Baoxu and his troop of Chu soldiers. Wu Yun tells him the whole sad story, and Shen Baoxu advises him to settle in Wu. (Since this was a one day performance, this part is left out too, in order to save Zhang Ke from appearing dead tired in the ending scenes.)

(3) Wu Yun arrives to the Zhao Pass, but unfortunately he cannot get through since his “Wanted” posters are already on display. He’s hiding in the home of a hermit, Dong Gaogong for seven days, and due to the constant worrying his hair and beard turn grey.

Have you seen this man?

Dong Gaogong has a friend, Huangfu Ne, who looks exactly like Wu Yun. They exchange clothes and go to the pass. Huangfu Ne arrives first, and immediately gets arrested. He stirs up a great fuss, meanwhile Wu Yun sneaks through the pass. Finally Dong Gaogong testifies that Huangfu Ne is his friend, not Wu Yun, thus he gets released.

(4) The manhunt for Wu Yun continues, and he flees to the riverbank. There’s no ferry, just a fisherman with a small vessel. Wu Yun asks him hurriedly to cross the river. The fisherman recognizes him, helps the worn out hero and accepts nothing in return. Wu Yun comes ashore and leaves, but soon he returns and asks the fisherman not to inform the soldiers about his whereabouts. Seeing that Wu doesn’t trust him, the old man throws himself into the river and dies. Wu Zixu is too late to stop him, he only gazes at the ripples in remorse and finally leaves.

(5) Wu almost reaches the borders of Wu state, but he’s all worn-out and hungry. He sees a silk-washing girl on the riverbank, and has no other option but to beg for food. The girl gives him food what Wu gladly accepts, but he doesn’t want to embarrass the girl who hasn’t met a single male before, and leaves quickly.
(In the original script, the girl figures out from his manner that Wu isn’t a beggar, and asks what happened to him. Wu Yun tells her the story, and unintentionally they start a lengthy chatter. Just like in the case of the fisherman, Wu leaves but returns shortly after, and asks the girl not to inform the soldiers about him. The girl feels that her chastity is ruined anyways after the conversation, and jumps into the river just like the old man.
In this edition, this part is left out. Both audience and critics appreciated the decision. But if you would like to see the original, much more depressing version, I uploaded an additional video of this scene with Sun Huizhu and Zhang Huifang.)

(6) Upon his arrival to Wu state, Wu Yun meets a brave young man, Zhuan Zhu, and they become sworn brothers. Wu has to beg for alms at the market to maintain himself.
One day, prince Ji Guang has an outing, and hears Wu Yun’s reed pipe. He figures out from the tune and Wu’s accent that he’s not an ordinary beggar, and appoints him at the official residence. Ji Guang wants to assassinate his cousin Ji Liao, the current despotic ruler of Wu state, and take the throne for himself. Wu Yun recommends Zhuan Zhu for the task. Their plan is to disguise Zhuan Zhu as chef at the king’s banquet, and hide the murder weapon into the king’s favorite dish, a roast fish.
(Ji Guang’s short sword was unearthed in 1974 and is on display in the Anhui Museum. The actual blade is much longer (54cm) than the prop in the play – that would have been a huge fish. ᵔ.ᵔ)

(7) After getting the task of murdering Ji Liao, Zhuan Zhu returns home and bids farewell to his mother. Seeing that he’s somewhat reluctant to leave, Zhuan Zhu’s mother is preaching to his son for a while, then hangs herself to clear up Zhuan’s misgivings.

(8) According to the plans, Zhuan Zhu disguises himself as caterer and offers a delicious fish dish to Ji Liao at the banquet. Ji Liao knows well that Ji Guang, who’s also invited to the feast, isn’t loyal to him, thus surrounds himself with security guards and wears a protective vest under his garment. But the security check fails to discover the dagger hidden into the fish, and in the right moment, Zhuan Zhu stabs King Liao to death. Unfortunately he can’t escape after the assassination and pays with his life.

(9) In the battle for the kingship, Wu Zixu defeats five generals and Ji Guang ascends the throne as King Helü. End.

京剧《伍子胥》Wu Zixu

Click here to download the video.

Length: 3:06:57 File size: 1,17GB, 720×576 Extension: MKV
Broadcast: CCTV “Theater in the Air” 2011-08-13
Performed: Tianjin China (Zhonghua) Theater 2011-07-02

Additional videos:

The Battle of Fancheng – battle scene (143MB)
2011-08-24, Mei Lanfang Theatre, Beijing
Performers: Yang Shaopeng (杨少彭), Huang Chen (黄臣) and Wang Yuxi (王玉玺).

Washing Silk at the River – tragic version (131MB)
2010-08-27, Chang’an Grand Theater, Beijing
Performers: Sun Huizhu (孙惠珠) female laosheng and Zhang Huifang (张慧芳).

Cast of the main video:

Wu Yun: Zhang Ke (张克)
Ji Liao: Meng Guanglu (孟广禄)
The old fisherman: Shi Xiaoliang (石晓亮)
Girl washing silk: Liu Shuyun (刘淑云)
Dong Gaogong, Ji Guang: Lu Song (卢松)
Wu Shang: Ma Liansheng (马连生)
Zhuan Zhu: Yang Guang (杨光)
Huangfu Ne: Fang Zhigang (房志刚)
Mi Nanshi: Chen Xiqiang (陈玺强)
Fei Wuji: Liu Junjie (刘俊杰)

A few memorable arias:

“一封书信到樊城” from Battle of Fancheng – 0:18:35

Yang Baosen version (mp3)

“鸡鸣犬吠五更天” from The Zhao Pass – 1:04:32

Yang Baosen version (mp3)

“一事无成两鬓斑” from Sword Inside the Fish – 1:54:35

I couldn’t find any recording with Yang Baosen, that seems to be extremely rare, but I decided to upload Yu Kuizhi’s version, who loosely fits into the Yang school.
Yu Kuizhi version (mp3)

As curiosity, I also added the recordings of Beijing Opera master Yu Shuyan (余叔岩) and his present day follower, Wang Peiyu, just to note further differences.
Yu Shuayan version (mp3)
Wang Peiyu version (mp3)

“列国之中干戈厚” from Murdering Wang Liao – 2:50:40

Qiu Shengrong version (mp3)
Fang Rongxiang version (mp3)


During the performance, Zhang Ke changes clothes several times:

Wu Yun as traveler. His beard is still black.

Next morning, his beard is already white.

Wu Yun as refugee.

Wu Yun as beggar.

Wu Yun as advisor.

Wu Yun as general.

I still couldn’t get the hang of Tan-style, but Lu Song surely left an impact on me.

The outfit trick

Innocent maiden with picnic basket

Ji Liao, rubbing his palms: “Hmm, this smells good!”

Black beard, black clothes, black face, black fish: Zhuan Zhu as chef

Have fun opera fans, see you next week!

Sources: Article on the performancescripts.xikao.com
Photos: bbs.cntv.cnforum.enorth.com.cn

With referral to an external post, I would like to present here a few scenes from a play I liked very much. You can buy a copy here if you’re fond of tasteful innovation. All videos were converted to MP4 with Handbrake, and suffered only minimal deinterlacing loss. Summaries in English were found at .

《宰相刘罗锅》Zaixiang Liu Luoguo (Prime Minister Humpbacked Liu)

Download videos here: [Scene1] [Scene2] [Scene3] [Scene4] [Scene5]
File size: 153MB, 212MB, 94MB, 74MB, 123MB respectively, 708×480

Chapter I — Debut

Emperor Qianlong attempted the daughter of the Sixth Grand Prince to become his concubine. However, the princess hated to be restrained by rules and manners in the royal court. As a master of chess playing, she intended to take the initiative by selecting her husband through chess playing in the chess court. Liu Yong (Hunchback Liu), who arrived in Beijing for the Imperial Examination (The feudal society of china employed the Imperial Examination System to select officials from intellectuals), ran into the chess court and won the game. But then he was driven into a dilemma by Emperor Qianlong, traveling in disguise, who argued for another game. In the Imperial Examination, Courtier He Shen pulled strings behind the scenes so that Liu Yong failed. But He Shen’s conspiracy was exposed by Liu Yong. He Shen tried hard to drive Liu Yong to a dead end. Eventually, when Liu Yong succeeded in passing the exam and was holding the wedding ceremony, Emperor Qianlong and Courtier He Shen showed up without notice. What will be the fate of Liu Yong?

Liu Yong has to face the worst wedding night ever: not only his father-in-law returns twice to talk to his daughter, but the Emperor also shows up. Princess Gege is spending the night with playing chess. At least, Liu Yong gets a funny wedding present in matryoshka boxes.

“Little shoes!” (Chen Shaoyun)

Chapter II — Night Interrogation

Jiangsu provincial governor Ye Guotai committed embezzlement by misreporting the thirty-li (one li is about 500 meters) river embankment as eight hundred-li. When Emperor Qianlong made an inspection tour in southern areas to the Yangtze River, Ye Guotai and He Shen conspired to block the way. Liu Yong, as magistrate of Jiangning, strived to break their plot. Right then, the Emperor caught sight of a beauty Yin Hong, passing by on a boat. Qianlong chased after the beauty to the Qinxin Mansion, ran into conflict with a bully Shi Jinghu there and brought him to death for his vicious behavior. Then Qianlong and He Shen were put into jail accidentally by Zhang Cheng. Ye Guotai meant to play both ends against the middle, dictating Liu Yong to punish severely on the case. Liu Yong had quick wits to hold night interrogation to free Qianlong from jail and to expose the embezzlement by Ye Guotai.

The Emperor falls for the beautiful Yin Hong, and tries to seduce her with sweet words. Later he accidentally kills a village bully, Shi Jinghu in a battle of love, and gets arrested.

Qianlong wears rose-tinted glasses. (Li Yan, Zhang Huifang)

Gege’s father gets drunk and shows us his vocal abilities. The Princess isn’t pleased. Liu Yong returns with the bad news – some serious watersleeves twirling goes on.

“Daddy, please stop singing!” (Ma Zengshou, Dong Yuanyuan)

“What should we do now?” (Chen Shaoyun)

Chapter III — Plum Chanting

In believing that a heavy snow foretells a big harvest, Emperor Qianlong began to intone a poem spontaneously and then got stuck. Liu Yong moved on to consummate the poem. Qianlong agreeably accepted it. He Shen was very jealous of Liu’s talent. Then Liu Yong’s wife, the princess, compiled the poem into Liu Yong’s collection of works by chance. He Shen took advantage of the incident and threw Liu Yong into jail, intending to put him in a fatal position. The Emperor pretended to grant Liu Yong a sword to commit suicide, meaning to cutting down his pride and overconfidence. Liu Yong and the Princess exercised their intelligence to free themselves from the hot water, winning back the emperor’s favor, and putting He Shen in an embarrassing position.

Scene4 and 5
These come with a different cast.

Wang Rongrong plays the Princess.

A hardly recognizable unbearded Zhu Qiang as Emperor Qianlong.

Du Zhenjie as Liu Yong isn’t too happy about the “harakiri sword” he just got.

Contrary, the treacherous He Shen is overjoyed. A surprisingly lean Meng Guanglu without face paint. (Neither jing nor chou performers wear their usual make-up in this play.)

That’s all for today folks, I hope you had fun. ^^